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Social Media Activism

Updated on December 4, 2017

Choosing the Topic

I had originally planned to do this project on people's beliefs regarding GMOs, and had even created a survey and conducted several interviews before realizing that the subject matter was not relevant to me at all. Since I am majoring in Social Work and minoring in Sociology, it made the most sense to choose a topic related to advocacy or group behavior. Social media activism was the perfect choice because activism is about advocating for the rights of others, and social media activism is a topic that is studied in Sociology.

The Survey Process

I decided to create a survey of ten questions for gathering information on people's general views about social media activism and their experiences with it, and with social media in general. Of those ten questions, four were demographic questions.

The survey questions and their possible answers were:

1. To which gender do you most identify?
a. Female
b. Male
c. Prefer not to say
d. Other

2. Are you of Hispanic, Latino, or of Spanish origin?
a. Yes
b. No

3. How would you describe yourself?
a. American Indian or Alaska Native
b. Asian
c. Black or African American
d. Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander
e. White
f. Middle Eastern/North African
g. Other

4. What is your major?

5. Are you active on social media?
a. Yes
b. No

6. Have you ever engaged in social media activism (changing profile picture, donating to a fundraiser, sharing a post about a social problem, etc)?
a. Yes
b. No

7. If you answered yes to the previous question, how often is your social media activism engagement?
a. Daily
b. At least once a week
c. At least once a month
d. At least once a year
e. N/A

8. What is the primary way you stay informed about social issues?
a. Social media
b. TV
c. Newspapers
d. Radio
e. Word of mouth
f. Other

9. If you wanted to inform your friends/family/followers of a social issue, you would (check all that apply)
a. Create a post
b. Tag them in a post/comment
c. Retweet/share the original post
d. Text them
e. Tell them in person
f. Other

10. Do you think social media activism is effective or ineffective?
a. Effective
b. Ineffective

I used Google Forms to create the survey as I felt it would be the most efficient way for me to gather data since the response data is organized very well through it. I initially shared the link to the survey on a large GroupMe chat I am in. Since everyone in that chat is Asian or Middle Eastern/North African and I wanted a more diverse range of respondents, I shared the link to my survey on Snapchat as well. There were several people who told me that they were not even aware Snapchat allowed for link sharing, so I am glad I knew about that feature and was able to gain from it. I also shared the survey on my Facebook and a couple of my friends had shared the status on their own Facebook pages, and some friends had shared the link to the survey among their roommates or own friend groups.


Survey Response Data

Looking at just the demographic information, the majority of individuals who responded were female, which I expected since most of the people I am closest to are female. Racially, a majority of the respondents were Asian, which I was not surprised by either since most of my friends are Asian. The most common major was Social Work, with 11 people saying that was their major. After that, it was Psychology with eight and MCB with five.

My efforts to be more inclusive backfired when one person responded with the gender they identified as “mushroom,” their race/ethnicity as “husband” and their major as “Farah” but their other answers seemed valid, fortunately.

To summarize the data:

  • 65 responses were received in total over a period of four days
  • 92.3% of people said they are active on social media
  • 87.7% of people said they had engaged in social media activism
  • Of those who had engaged in social media activism, 35.4% said it was at least once a year, 24.6% at least once a month, 15.4% daily, and 12.3% for at least once a week
  • 81.5% of people said social media was their primary way to stay informed about social issues, followed by 7.7% saying newspapers
  • Most popular method to inform friends/family/followers of a social issue was telling them in person (76.9%) followed by retweeting/sharing the original post (53.8%)
  • 89.3% of people think social media activism is effective

Reaction:

I was a little disappointed to see that a majority of the respondents only engaged in social media activism about once a year, as I thought it would be on a monthly basis at the very least. I also feel like the reason for this might have been because of a misunderstanding of what social media activism entails, because when people think of it, they might have a narrow idea in their mind yet it is more than what they assume. The large amount of people who said they are active on social media was to be expected since most of the respondents were reached out to on social media in the first place. One thing I was surprised by, though, was how many people said their primary way to stay informed about social issues was through newspapers. I personally do not know anyone in college who still reads the newspapers, or at least who would choose that option over social media, so that was very interesting.

The Interviewing Process

I interviewed four people. Two of these interviews were in person, and the other two were made over the phone because it was not possible to have them in person. All of the interviews were recorded so that their responses could be referred back to. Two of the people were more active on social media whereas the other two individuals were not as active.

The questions I asked were:

  1. How do you view social media activism?
  2. Do you think social media activists should be considered as activists, and why or why not?
  3. What do you believe are some pros and cons of social media activism?
  4. Do you have any personal experience with social media activism, and was it effective?
  5. Any other thoughts on social media activism?

Since I wanted to act as an honest broker and offer an alternative perspective, if their answer was leaning towards "no" for the second question, then I asked a follow-up question of "what if social media is the only way an individual can engage in social media activism because of accessibility issues, like if they have a disability?"

As an honest broker, I also thought it was important to have each interviewee consider the pros and cons of social media activism, so that regardless of their own personal views, they can still acknowledge the other side's perspective and recognize that both sides have valid points.

Interview Responses Summary

Point #1:

Social media activism is a great way to quickly spread information.

Counterpoint #1:

False information can also be spread quickly, which then leads to negative repercussions for the individuals or ideas involved.

Point #2:

Social media activism is the bare minimum someone can do, and it is hardly "real" activism.

Counterpoint #2:

For some individuals, social media activism might be the most radical thing that they can do given their circumstances, and the change they effect is actually meaningful.

Point #3:

Social media activism should not be the limit to which someone's activism extends. People should enact change beyond social media.

Counterpoint #3:

Not everyone has accessibility to other means of activism, so social media may be their only option due to having a disability or some other issue of accessibility.

Point #4:

Social media activism can be like talking into an echo chamber because people typically follow like-minded individuals and their own followers are also like-minded.

Counterpoint #4:

What you post will still always be exposed to differing viewpoints, so you can still be challenged and hear the other side's perspective.

Comments

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    • Mr. Happy profile image

      Mr. Happy 

      10 months ago from Toronto, Canada

      "I was a little disappointed to see that a majority of the respondents only engaged in social media activism about once a year, as I thought it would be on a monthly basis at the very least." - This thought here made me smile.

      It was some years ago at a Mayday March (International Workers' Day), when my sister said to me that she was disappointing in the turn-out of the demonstration. On the other hand, I was quite pleased: a couple of thousand people marching on the streets of downtown Toronto was in my mind a success.

      My sister's opinion was that if we had been back in Romania, or anywhere else in Europe, we would have had tens of thousands of people out on the streets. My point was just that: we are not in Europe. We are in North America now, where massive protests, strikes, general strikes and the like are not so common. There is simply no precedent for massive social movements here.

      I am curious how many Americans know about Eugene V. Debs?

      There needs to be more ground work done in respect to social and political activism in the United States and Canada as well. As Life gets a little harder, as politicians get a little more corrupt, as the rich get a little richer, people will get more interested in politics and activism. They will start looking for alternatives. That search has began already.

      So, yes social media activism is important: sharing meeting places, sharing photographs, sharing ideas, all these things are great. The following step though, is the most difficult one: getting people to act on a regular basis. So, what I mean by that is knocking on doors, getting people to commit to social changes: asking them to vote for certain representatives who will bring about social change.

      When it comes down to it social change will happen in two ways: either politicians will bring about that change, or people will start a revolution (or a coup-d'etat) and bring change through violence. I lived through a revolution once, I am not keen on living through another. Although, if I have to I will.

      Good article - a lot of food for thought. Best of Luck to You!

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